“The view of the king’s camp was concealed only by a narrow tongue of land, consisting of naked rocks, but when we had sailed round we were surprised at the sight of the most beautiful landscape.”
“We found ourselves in a small sandy bay of the smoothest water, protected against the waves of the sea; on the bank was a pleasant wood of palm-trees, under whose shade were built several straw houses …”
“… to the right, between the green leaves of the banana-trees, peeped two snow-white houses, built of stone after the European fashion, on which account this place has the mixed appearance of a European and Owhyee village”.
“(T)o the left, close to the water, on an artificial elevation, stood the morai (heiau) of the king, surrounded by large wooden statues of his gods, representing caricatures of the human figure.” (Kotzebue, visiting in 1816)
Several large and densely populated Royal Centers were located along the shoreline between Kailua and Hōnaunau. One such center was located along the north end of Kailua Bay at Kamakahonu.
Kamakahonu (lit. turtle eye) was possibly established as early as the sixteenth century by ʻUmi-a-Līloa. It was during the early nineteenth century that Keawe a Mahi, a kahu of Keaweaheulu presided over Kamakahonu, and upon the death of Keawe a Mahi, Kamakahonu became the residence of Kamehameha I.
During Kamehameha’s tenure at Kamakahonu several structures were erected using both traditional materials and techniques and more “modern” materials and techniques.
Kamehameha first moved into the former residence of Keawe a Mahi. He then built another house on the seaward side of that residence, that was referred to as hale nana mahina ‘ai.
This house was built high on stones and faced directly upland toward the planting fields of Kūāhewa. Like an observation post this house afforded a view of the farm lands and was also a good vantage point to see canoes coming from South Kona and from the Kailua vicinity. (Rechtman)
Much of the following is from John Papa ‘Īʻi’s book, ‘Na Hunahuna no ka Moʻolelo Hawaii’ (Fragments of Hawaiian History;) he was a member of the Kamehameha household.
‘I‘i describes that the “King erected three houses thatched with dried ti leaves,” a sleeping house (hale moe) and separate men’s (hale mua) and women’s (hale ‘āina) eating houses. The hale ‘āina belonged to Kaʻahumanu, and as ‘I‘i described:
“This house had two openings in the gable end toward the west, and close to the second opening was the door of the sleeping house. A third opening was in the end toward the upland.”
“There were three openings in the sleeping house. The one in the middle of the west end, one which served as a window on the upland side of the southwest corner, and one mauka of the window. This window lay beyond the men’s house (mua) on the south. The door mauka of the window was the one entered when coming from the men’s house.”
“The door of the men’s house closest to the sleeping house was the one used to go back and forth between these two houses. There was also a door in the end wall on the west side of this house, and two small openings in the south seaward corner, one in the upper side and one on the lower side of the corner.”
“These faced the many capes of Kona and took in the two extremities of this tranquil land and the ships at anchor. However, should the ships be more to the ocean side, only the masts were visible.”
“A fifth opening was a little on the seaward side of the northeast corner, where the upland side of the men’s house extended a little beyond the sleeping house, and it was only through this entrance that the men went in and out. It was near the door that was used to enter from the sleeping house.”
“Near the door facing westward in the mua, was the king’s eating place. On the upper side were large and small wooden containers that served as bowls and platters, together with a large poi container always filled with poi from the king’s lands.”
“The men’s eating house, the sleeping house, and the women’s eating house were at the end of a 7- to 8-foot stone wall that ran irregularly from there to the shore at the back of the hale nana mahina ‘ai. Outside of the wall was the trail for those who lived oceanward of Kamakahonu. Immediately back of the wall was the pond of Alanaio, where stood some houses.”
“Two eating houses were built for Kaheiheimālie and her daughter, Kekāuluohi, opposite the three houses thatched with ti leaves. They stood back of the kou trees growing there at Kamakahonu, both facing northwest.”
“Kaheiheimālie’s eating house had two doors, but Kekāuluohi’s had but one door. In front of her house was a bathing pool, at the upper bank of which were some small houses and that of the king.”
“A stone house was built between the three houses thatched with ti and those of these chiefesses. Its builder was either a Frenchman or a Portuguese named Aikona. He was skilled in such work…”
“When Aikona began building the end and side walls of the house at Kamakahonu he built a third wall between them and arranged stones in the center of this middle wall to from a door.”
“The walls rose together until the house, from one end to the other, was finished. When Aikona later removed the stones set up in the doorway of the center wall, the doorway looked like the fine arched bridge of Pualoalo at Peleula in Honolulu.”
“As he removed the stones, Aikona explained that had they been piled inexpertly, the whole house might have collapsed. This house was well completed.”
“In the stone house were stored the king’s valuables and those of Aikona’s. These valuables were kegs of rum and gunpowder and guns, of which the guns and powder were placed on the inside near the inner wall. “
“Later, another storehouse was built in Kamakahonu, on the north side of the hale nana mahina ‘ai. It had stone walls and was constructed like a maka halau. The upper of its two stories was for storing tapa, pa‘u, malos, fish nets, lines, and olona fiber; and all other goods went into the lower story.”
“The thatching was of sugar-cane leaves, the customary thatching on the house along that shore. Dried banana trunk sheaths were used for the inside walls and were cleverly joined from top to bottom. Banana trunk sheaths were also used in the hale nana mahina ‘ai.”
“After these houses were built, another heiau house, called Ahuʻena, was restored (ho‘ala hou). This house stood on the east side of the hale nana mahina ‘ai, separated from it by about a chain’s distance.”
“The foundation of Ahuʻena was a little more than a chain from the sand beach to the westward and from the rocky shore to the eastward. Right in front of it was a well-made pavement of stone which extended its entire length and as far out as the place where the waves broke.” (ʻĪʻi, Na Hunahuna no ka Moʻolelo Hawaiʻi’ (Fragments of Hawaiian History))